Technology plays an integral part of the learning experience. It provides students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to be effective in the 21st century. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), “To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.” In order to develop these skills, we must expose our students to a range of technology that not only encourages critical thinking and problem solving, but also supports effective teaching. As we transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) we must also address the extent of technology that will be integrated into these standards (California Department of Education, 2013). Particularly, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) will assess our students on the CCSS using constructed response questions that will require them to generate responses from one word to detailed explanations. The SBAC will also require students to assess the technological tools available and make models to represent certain mathematical concepts. With the district currently transitioning to the CCSS and the P21 Framework, it is imperative that we integrate new technology into the classroom to enhance our students’ learning experience.
In order to integrate new technology into the classroom, I have assessed the use of technology in my classroom and have identified the following three areas of opportunity: Instructional Software, Software Suites, and Beyond the Basics. Instructional software is comprised of instructional games (e.g. BrainPop) and Drill and Practice (e.g. Math Blaster, DreamBox Learning, Raz-Kids, and Typing Instructor for Kids 5.0). I chose Math Blast and DreamBox Learning to facilitate the students’ automaticity and mastery of basic math facts, Raz-Kids to help the students improve their reading comprehension levels, and Typing Instructor for Kids 5.0 to support the students with keyboarding. All four of these software packages allow students to choose activities of their own interest, receive results instantly, and advance at their own pace, supporting NETS-T 2b, 2c, and 2d. Basic Software Suites is comprised of word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word), spreadsheets (e.g. Microsoft Excel), and presentation (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint). I chose Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint so I could engage the students in project-based learning. For example, I plan to have students work in groups to develop a marketing plan for a new business venture. They would create the marketing plan on Microsoft Word, prepare a budget on Microsoft Excel, and present their marketing plan to the class on Microsoft PowerPoint, supporting NETS-S (2a, 2b, 2d, and 6a) and NETS-T (1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b). I would then have students create their own hardcopy advertisement with Adobe Photoshop and record their own commercial using background music they created on Mix Craft 6, supporting NETS-S (1b and 6a) and NETS-T (1a, 2a, and 2b). I would also have the students use Microsoft Excel to model account balances as they work together to solve word problems on adding and subtracting integers. This activity would not only support NETS-S (1c, 2a, 2d, and 3d), and NETS-T (1b), but also Mathematical Practice 4 (MP4) of the CCSS. Lastly, Beyond the Basics is comprised of materials generators (e.g. Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Acrobat Standard XI), data collection and analysis tools (e.g. FileMaker Pro), graphics tools (e.g. Adobe Photoshop), planning and organizing tools (e.g. MindGenius), research and reference tools (e.g. Encyclopaedia Brittanica), and content-area tools (e.g. Mix Craft 6 and Geometer’s Sketchpad). I chose these packages so I could have the students engage in metacognitive strategies, research-based activities, and project-based learning. For example, I would have the students work together in groups to model geometrical shapes using Geometer’s Sketchpad as they address real-world situations, supporting NETS-S (2d, 3a, and 6a), NETS-T (1a, 1b, 2a, and 2c), and MP4 of the CCSS.
With the use of technology being at the forefront of the CCSS, the P21, and local STEM initiatives, it should no longer be a question of whether technology should be used in the classroom, but how it should be used. Results from the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found that among 57 countries, 14 of these countries scored higher in 4th grade mathematics and 23 scored higher in 8th grade mathematics than the U.S. Now is the time to provide our students with the resources necessary to close this gap.